By Steven Norris

     For many, it is one of the most attractive pictures of Jesus in the four gospels. I’m talking about the picture in the second chapter of John where Jesus enters into the temple, sees that it has become a marketplace, makes a whip of cords, and begins clearing the temple. Who can resist Jesus when he is confronting hypocrisy, righting injustices, or insisting on keeping holy things holy?

     As I prepare to preach this week, I cannot help but recognize that this picture of Jesus plays pretty well in our current cultural climate. There is certainly no shortage of outrage to be found. If you are not angry and protesting about something, I have a whole list possibilities for you. All around us, we are bombarded by those who would like to turn that outrage into profit.

     In this moment, Jesus is echoing the ancient tradition of the Hebrew prophets. In the spirit of Elijah on top of Mt. Carmel, going toe-to-toe with the prophets of Baal, Jesus will not back down for a moment. Embodying the prophetic action of Isaiah or Jeremiah, he embodies his message. Seeing him flipping tables, swinging the whip around his head, and shouting for all to hear, we are tempted to take up the whip and join him.

     The target you might set your sites on would be largely determined by a number of preconceived ideas about what is actually wrong in our culture. Is it the rampant greed of corporate entities? Is it an assault on our morals and shared common values? Is it corruption among those who are supposed to be leading us? Is it inflation, lost jobs, financial uncertainty, or some other injustice that pesters and annoys like a pebble in your shoe?

     I have an idea. Let’s get our whips and hit the streets! Jesus is leading the way, after all. We need to join him — flipping tables, righting wrongs, and calling people back to holiness.

     The problem is this, friends: Jesus didn’t storm into the palace of Pilate, the Roman governor, and start flipping tables there. He did not point his finger at Herod, the puppet king. He did not attack the Philistines, Jebbusites, Samaritans, or any other foreign people living nearby with different beliefs and customs.

     No, Jesus waltzed right into the sanctuary of the local church and started flipping over tables there. His gaze was not turned outward toward those people, but inward toward us and our people. It is important, in this time of Lent — this time of self-reflection and repentance — to recognize that, while Jesus certainly speaks for us and with us, he also speaks to us and even against us at times. The revolution Jesus called for was a revolution of the heart and a revival of the church.

     This week, maybe we could do some self-reflection by asking the Spirit to show us the tables in our own lives and churches that may need to be flipped in order to embody zeal for the Lord’s house. May the temple of our bodies become a house of prayer that embodies the command  to love God and others.